Wulf of AtlasBlogged believes that there is no such thing as a selfless act. In the context of my example of a soldier who commits suicide to save the lives of his fellow soldiers by throwing himself on a live grenade, Wulf writes,

He has made a rational decision that his self-interest involves risking his life for others, or for a cause. He has weighed the things he loves and values. He is acting in his own rational self-interest. To dismiss that rational evaluation as silly, uninteresting, and pointless is demeaning to the willful sacrifice that countless people have made in the name of our way of life.

Wulf is defining the terms self-interest tautologically: Every conceivable action a person can do is in that person's self-interest, because if the person did not believe the action was in his or her self interest, that person would not have performed the action. Wulf concludes from this that selflessness is impossible.

Given the definitions of the word that Wulf has chosen, his statements are logically consistent. There is nothing technically wrong with any of them.

But the problem is, Wulf has told us nothing. In fact, the problem is even worse: Not only has Wulf told us nothing, but he has also rendered meaningless the concept of self-interest. Under Wulf's conception, self-interest just is the motivation of action

So we have eliminated one term and learned nothing we didn't already know already. But now that we no longer have this term at our disposal, we need to come up with a new term to describe what people actual


But the usefulness of this assumption fails on the grounds of tautology if we expand the definition to describe all possible actions.

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